Erykah Badu – Didn’t Cha Know
     (***)  The second video from Mama’s Gun is a vast improvement on the half-assed, bargain-basement clip for “Bag Lady.” It’s also more representative of the album as a whole, which begs the question, Why didn’t they just out “Didn’t Cha Know” in the first place and throw a little promotion behind it? It would have sold the album better, I think. Anyway, this video is directed by Badu herself and features the perfect-square letterboxing popularized last year in videos from Janet Jackson and Destiny’s Child. Badu spends most of her time wandering through the desert, wondering how long it will take before the pope discovers that she stole his big hat. The first two minutes or so are just Erykah walking across this white- and marigold-tinted landscape, before she succumbs to exhaustion and lies down. The brief night scenes that ensue, shot in various shades of blue, are the most visually exciting, with Badu stumbling across the scorched earth after a lizard crawls over her hand. This is nothing too elaborate, but “Didn’t Cha Know” is definitely a competent and stylish clip for a good song off a great album. –Andrew Hicks

Beck – Mixed Bizness
     (***½)  This is one of those weeks I’ve come across gems on every possible video outlet, even stodgy-ass VH1. It’s still the only network I’ve ever seen show this trippy, technically savvy Beck video. I happened upon “Mixed Bizness” once, months and months ago, when it first came out and then saw it twice this week. (I presume they’ve put it in mild rotation lately because Midnite Vultures is up for Album of the Year at the Grammies.) But I’ve never once caught this on MTV or even M2, which is mind-boggling. “Mixed Bizness” is every bit the attention grabber “Sexxlaws” and the Odelay clips were, and it overflows with distinctive visual flair. Stephanie Sednaoui, who brought us a few of the more colorful Smashing Pumpkins videos, here gives us a disco-dancing Beck in front of psychedelic color patterns, chicks dancing in color negative and a black-and-white beach scape with Beck buried to the neck and bathing beauties with baby sharks enveloping their heads. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Mixed Bizness” is one to look out for, and I’m surprised VH1 is the channel that brought it to me. –AH

Dido – Thank You
Dido - Thank You
     (**½)  It had to happen eventually – they had to release the entire song Eminem’s producers snatched to provide the chorus for “Stan,” the seven-minute epic about a hypothetical stalker-fan. So, if you’ve never heard the Dido original, “Thank You,” it’s kind of fucked up to hear her sing, “My tears don’t go, I wonder why…” at the beginning and not hear a nasally white voice kick in with, “Dear Slim…” right after. It’s a bizarre kind of musical deja vu, although “Thank You” quickly settles into the territory of your average VH1-friendly ballad (which has also been deemed Buzzworthy by MTV, I’m betting, just because of its association with Eminem). Dido, the English songstress of the moment, lounges around her empty house while federal agents and representatives from collection agencies root through her shit and start hauling it away. Dido eventually gets dragged out herself, and a bulldozer plows into her house, ripping it apart while she continues lip synching into the camera, unresponsive to the fact that she’s losing all her valuables. She’s like, “Fuck the lot of ya, I’ve been sampled on an Eminem record! I’ll just go buy another house.” –AH
Dido - Thank You

Dream – He Loves U Not
Dream - He Loves U Not
     (**)  Like everyone else, I scoffed when I heard Puff Daddy was putting together a girl group of honky hotties in attempts to edge in on the teenybopper TRL market. (Do you realize that last sentence had not one but three shameless attempts at alliteration?) Hell, just hearing or reading the name “Puff Daddy” has made me scoff internally for going on four years now, but damn… I’ll give it to Sean John, he’s assembled what is probably the hottest fucking girl group I’ve ever seen. Any one of these four junior-beauties could incite animal lust from the average, red-blooded American male, but together, it’s a fashion-magazine wet dream come true. I probably shouldn’t say this, considering that a couple of the girls in Dream reside in that questionable age demographic where you have no idea whether you could be sent to jail just for asking for their phone numbers. The song is slipshod, of course, half-Christina Aguilera and half-Pink (which in itself implies ripped-off components of TLC, Destiny’s Child and Toni Braxton), but the video isn’t half bad. For the aforementioned reasons, of course, but also because of director Marcus Raboy, who normally deals in legitimate hip-hop and knows how to create a colorful, enticing image or two. This video still makes me feel like washing my entire body out with soap, though, so I can’t go higher than two stars. –AH
Dream - He Loves U Not

Ben Harper – Faded
     (***)  Ben Harper is one of those guys that I’ve heard a lot about from friends and the like, but I’ve really never listened to anything of his besides the feel-good VH1 favorite “Steal My Kisses.” (Which, when I wrote a review of that, made Harper seem like the kind of artist that could go either way in my judgment.) With “Faded,” I’m still kind of undecided, left more with the urge to listen to the entire album than anything. This sounds more like a Lenny Kravitz attempt at a lazy, hypnotic mid-tempo song with abundant swirling guitars than anything; like something off of Circus, perhaps. It’s not a bad tune, and it has a strong black-and-white video to go with it – Harper, pushing his way past popping camera bulbs and shrieking, supermodel-looking female fans, climbs into the back of his limo and sings placidly to the camera for a couple minutes. He’s so fucking out of it you don’t doubt him when he spookily moans, “I’m so faded,” over and over. The video later takes us to a 1960s-looking soundstage and features a psychedelic, full-color interlude that dissolves from sunsets to belly dancers to brush fires. So, in conclusion, I still don’t completely know about Ben Harper, but he’s two for two with me on videos. -AH

Lucy Pearl f/Q-Tip and Snoop Dogg – You
Lucy Pearl - You
     (***)  I finally happened upon an $8.99 used copy of the Lucy Pearl album a couple months ago at CD Warehouse – it’s one of those scant-selling titles that you have to wait forever to turn up used, like the Out of Sight soundtrack or something – and have been listening to it frequently ever since. If you’re not familiar with this patchwork R+B act, it’s fronted by Tony Toni Tone singer Raphael Saadiq and En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson, with instrumentation and production work from Ali Shaheed Muhammed, late of A Tribe Called Quest. It’s a near-perfect pairing, with the careful melodies of the first, the dance-pop appeal of the second and the wry lyrics and fat hip-hop beats of the last. “You,” the third single, tosses fellow Tribe member Q-Tip and stoner-rap favorite Snoop Dogg into the mix, with brief opening and closing verses almost sounding like conversations between the two rappers. The rest is standard hip-hop fare, more stylish than hardcore, thanks to director Billie Woodruff (whose resume mainly consists of videos where she has to bark via megaphone for Toni Braxton to, “Look more emotional, like that dang-old man just chewed you up and spit you out, honey!”). There are shots of Snoop rolling in his drop-top convertible, Q-Tip wandering the autumn streets of New York by himself and the members of Lucy Pearl – introduced with freeze-frame title cards – at a giant, warehouse party. The colors are rich, and the whole thing works in a pleasant, subtle way. “You” would almost seem a distinguished video from some of pop-rap’s elder statesmen if not for the too-frequent clips from MTV’s new theatrical release, Save the Last Dance For Me And My Black Boyfriend (Does That Offend You?). –AH
Lucy Pearl - You

Gay Video of the Week

Elton John – I’m Still Standing (1983)
     (***)  This review is for those people who have been e-mailing me asking for a Gay Video Of The Week that’s actually good. You know, the letters you’ve been sending that read along the lines of, “Come on, Andrew, we know you like a little fey, kitsch-filled entertainment every now and then. You give Duran Duran videos three stars, for Christ’s sake. Give the Deniece Williams and Richard Marx videos a rest for a week and review yourself a gay video that will make me proud.” Well, okay, I will, thanks, and I’ll go straight to some Reagan-era Elton shit. “I’m Still Standing” was made during the tail-end of Elton’s crazy, drug-abandon days – as we all know, he spent nearly all of the ’70s snorting coke through his asshole and then cleaned himself up and came out of the closet during a Barbara Walters interview and went on to record several dozen sound-alike ballads, many of which he pimped out to the Disney. (I guess you didn’t need me to put Elton’s career in a nutshell like that, but hey, that’s what I’m here for.) Anyway, the surprisingly involved video for “I’m Still Standing” has the over-the-top feel of a grand-scale Hollywood musical, with Elton in a bright red sportcoat and gunga-din hat (among other wardrobe perks) presiding over some choreographed dancing on a beach, down the boardwalk and around an old-school white hotel. There’s a huge cast of extras, some in body paint, and the camera movements and transition techniques keep things appropriately whimsical. Not bad, not bad. –AH

Leon's Ghetto-Ass Video of the Week

Mr. C The Slide Man – The Cha-Cha Slide
     (*½)  In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a week late – blame that one on Andrew – I give you this dance craze that is uniting the races across the country. (One Hop This Time!) First, a news crew arrives to film the people of Chicago dancing the new craze. Mr. C presides over groups of people dancing to the music all over the city – the kids, those drunk middle age relatives you try to avoid at the family reunion, geriatric old white people attempting to do it, too. Is that supposed to be funny? The dance is pretty simple. Hell, I even admit going down the street hopping, sliding and cha-chaing to the music. But this song is for the club, and the club only. (Now, Slide To The Left, Slide To The Right!) The big question is, will this replace the Electric slide at weddings, reunions and bar mitvahs nationwide? Only time will tell. Leon Bracey

Classic Videos

N.W.A. – Appetite For Destruction (1991)
     (***½)  Was it last week I said the one thing MTV2 seemed to be lacking was an appreciation for the thoroughly entertaining gangsta rap videos from the first half of the ’90s? I take that back now – occasionally, late at night, when you get the right veejay picking the shit, you get lucky. You get something like “Appetite For Destruction,” which is built around a badass uptempo groove from producer Dr. Dre and somehow doesn’t suffer from content censorship on M2. It comes from that golden age of rap video, before MTV got nervous and started slashing references to guns, drugs and hoes. So we get all of the above here, in an epic, atmospheric clip that begins with Eve tempting Adam and soon segues to the glamorous end product of original sin, the Prohibition era. The rappers wear tailored suits, cruise around town, play poker and eventually rob a bank, Bonnie and Clyde-style. It’s four minutes of shit you can no longer get away with on basic cable without fear of lawsuits and retaliation from stay-at-home-mom activist groups, and it’s a badass video-song package. Thank you, M2, you glorious bitches. –AH

War – Low Rider (c. 1977)
     (***)  Another dated gem from VH1 Classic is this car-filled video from War, which the network has taken from such a washed-out, 16mm print that it looks almost like an instructional film. (“Hey, gang, we’re the guys from War, and we’re going to show you how to merge and pass other cars safely!” *grin and thumbs-up*) The singer looks more like Van McCoy, you know, the one-hit disco wonder who perpetrated “The Hustle” on a nation’s unsuspecting ass. The guy from War has on a cowboy hat and tosses off exaggerated facial characteristics, and the camera mainly approaches him from about three feet away. The video also has some shots of the horn section and harmonica player going crazy, but its stock in trade is the car stuff, which is rendered in documentary-style footage of pimped-out Ford Administration hoopties cruising down the street. This is a lot of basic shit, but the editing is quick enough and the humor understated enough that the video for “Low Rider” works even today. And when’s the last time you saw a video that had its own end credits? –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks